Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Romano's Market

You could smell Salvatore (Sam) Romano's market before you saw it, especially when the weather was warm and the door was open, as the odors wafted along Merchant St.

Romano's, which opened circa 1940, specialized in imported food, most prominently Italian and Greek, but you could find ethnic foods eaten by just about every nationality group in Ambridge. And if Sam didn't have the item or ingredient you wanted, he'd try to get it for you.

Sam Romano in Romano's Market
703 Merchant St.
Beaver Valley Times
February 13, 1954

Times caption:
'I CAN GET IT FOR YOU' -- That's the slogan of Salvatore (Sam) Romano, proprietor of Romano's Market in Merchant Street, Ambridge, where foods from all points of the globe can be purchased. The slogan explains how. Romano's Market grew from a small grocery [to] its present eminence and unique status as a food store catering to patrons of practically every nationality.

I wish I had a photo of Romano's storefront, with its baskets and open barrels of food piled high on the sidewalk, and the entryway hung with strings of garlic and dried mushrooms, and ropes of sausages. And always, the source of the most dominant and unforgettable odor, dried cod (baccala). Most fascinating to me as a child were the barrels of large live snails which I'd watch crawling over damp straw.

Sam Romano at Romano's Market
Beaver County Times
July 3, 1964

Times caption:
SUCCESS STORY -- Ambridge food store owner Samuel Romano dips into a barrel of olives outside his Merchant Street store. Romano, who came to America from Sicily over 50 years ago, has kept his tiny specialty market virtually unchanged in the 24 years he has operated it. He has met successfully the challenge of the larger, self-service supermarket chains.

Exotic aromas emanated from inside the store too: the pungent smell of ripe cheeses; the spicy smell of salami, pepperoni, and other dried sausages; a heady mixture of a variety of herbs.

Need some preserved eels? You could get them at Romano's. Have a yen for some pickled pigs feet? Romano's had those too. Back in the day, you usually couldn't buy feta cheese in the chain groceries. But you could get it at Romano's. And long before olive bars appeared in some chain supermarkets, you could find an astonishing selection of varieties of olives at Romano's.

My mom bought her first pizzelle iron from Romano's.

According to the 1954 Beaver Valley Times article, Romano started in the produce business in Braddock. Then he and a relative opened a small food store on 4th St. in Ambridge before Romano moved to his 703 Merchant St. location two years later. Over the years, Romano's went by a number of variations of its name: Romano's Market, Romano's Foreign and Domestic Food Store, Romano's International Market, but the variety of the merchandise --and the odors--remained the same.

Romano's Foreign and Domestic Food Store ad
Beaver Valley Times
February 13, 1954

Sam Romano died suddenly in November 1973. Ni's Wok Chinese Food Carryout is the current business at 703 Merchant St.

Ni's Wok
703 Merchant St.
June 23, 2013
credit: Nancy Knisley

1 comment:

  1. I loved going with my Mom and Dad to Romano's. The smells emanating from the store were fantastic. Always so many items to satisfy a child's curiosity.